RALEIGH, N.C. — Following No. 12 Clemson’s 15-6 victory over NC State on Saturday, Clemson head coach Monte Lee said his team cannot worry about whether they have done enough or not when it comes to hosting a regional in the NCAA Tournament, which begins on June 2.
“That is obviously not up to me,” Lee said to The Clemson Insider after the Tigers snapped a nine-game losing streak in the ACC, the program’s longest in the history of the league.
From a pure numbers standpoint, it would appear the Tigers have done enough to earn the right to be a regional host. They finished the year 39-17 overall and 17-13 in the ACC. Their RPI currently sits at No. 8 and it should hold steady following Saturday’s win.
However, the Tigers stumbled to the finish line in the regular season. After winning 33 of their first 40 games, they went 6-10 in the last 16, which included the infamous nine-game ACC losing streak.
There is a good argument Clemson has played itself out of hosting a regional, and now will have to play itself back into a host position with next week’s ACC Tournament, which begins on Tuesday at Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, Ky.
“Here is the bottom line,” Lee said. “If we have done enough or if we have not done enough, the one thing we can control is what we do in the ACC Tournament. We are going into the ACC Tournament with one goal and one goal only. That is to try and play our best baseball and win it.”
Though he is just in second year here, Lee has experience in this circumstance at Clemson. Last year, Clemson entered the conference tournament with some wondering if they earned the right to host a regional or not after going 38-18 and 16-14 in the ACC.
However, the Tigers erased all doubt by going 4-0 in the tournament and winning the whole thing. The defending ACC Champions defeated No. 5 seed Virginia, No. 1 seed Louisville, No. 8 Wake Forest and No. 3 seed Florida State to win its first ACC Championship in 10 years.
The Tigers not only hosted its first regional since 2011, but it was the No. 7 overall seed after its ACC Tournament run.
“We want to go into the tournament with the mindset of let’s do everything we can to play good baseball and win this thing. So that is all we are really worried about right now,” Lee said.
Having that positive mindset is why Saturday’s win was so important to Clemson heading into the tournament. Last year, the Tigers came into the ACC Tournament on a high after sweeping Notre Dame. They entered that weekend with the possibility of not even qualifying for the tournament if they lost the series.
However, Clemson closed the regular season last year by going 12-4 in the last 16 games. The Tigers were also a lot healthier when compared to this year’s team.
Clemson has suffered injuries to its bullpen, catcher Chris Williams has a bum shoulder, centerfielder Chase Pinder has a bruised knee and on Saturday left fielder Reed Rohlman left the game after injuring his ankle. Before Saturday, Clemson had not won an ACC game since April 22.
So things are not exactly the same for Clemson coming into this year’s tournament. So the question is did they do enough before all of that to earn itself a regional?
“We cannot control those other factors, but it is certainly good to get a win here to end the regular season after we have been struggling,” Lee said.